Belgium could reopen non-essential shops ahead of Christmas, top official says

Belgium could reopen non-essential shops ahead of Christmas, top official says
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Belgium may give the go-ahead to the reopening of shops in time for Christmas, government officials said ahead of a key coronavirus meeting on Friday.

Amid mounting calls from the retail sector, leaders are set to give the go-ahead to the reopening of non-essential shops, Pierre-Yves Jeholet, the president of the Brussels-Wallonia Federation said in a radio interview on Friday.

In the clearest sign so far to business, Jeholet confirmed that there was a "consensus" among leaders to green-light a Christmas comeback for all shops from next week.

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Jeholet's statements follow earlier reports that federal and regional leaders, set to convene for the latest review of coronavirus measures in a Consultative Committee (CC) meeting this afternoon, were mulling some relaxations to the current lockdown.

They also come after top officials from the ruling coalition parties backed retailers' plea for reopening, warning that Belgian residents would otherwise go shopping in neighbouring countries.

"We have to give some perspective to Belgians," Jeholet said, warning that cross-border shopping could have "epidemiological consequences."

Another sticking point among leaders is the easing of social contact rules for Christmas and New Years' Eve, with some coalition parties pushing for a temporary easing on gatherings.

But Prime Minister Alexander De Croo has issued stern warnings over the risks of easing too early, even if momentarily, warning Belgians to not spoil "four weeks of progress over four days."

Despite dropping rates of hospitalisation and infections, in a statement ahead of the CC meeting on Friday, hospitals said they were still in crisis mode and urged leaders to not give in to pressure and relax too early.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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